Solskjaer targets striker to turn up heat on front three
Manager warns Rashford, Martial and Greenwood United aim to improve goal tally to close gap on champions
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer could target another striker to help Manchester United close the gap to Liverpool – and has warned Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood they must rise to the challenge provided by any new arrival or risk being replaced.
Rashford and Martial are each one goal away from hitting 20 for the campaign – United have not had two players reach that milestone in a single season for nine years – and teenager Greenwood has scored 12 times during an impressive breakthrough year.
But United have managed just 48 goals in 31 Premier League games – 22 fewer than champions Liverpool and 29 shy of Manchester City – and Solskjaer has revealed he may look to bring in more firepower.
The United manager has been impressed by the way Rashford, Martial and Greenwood have handled the pressure in the wake of Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez’s departures for Inter Milan last summer. But he has told his young attacking trio not to get comfortable.
“You need competition for places at Man United. If you think you’ve got a divine right to be playing every game and are doing so well that we’re not going to look for players to replace you, you’re in the wrong place,” Solskjaer said ahead of United’s visit to Brighton tonight. “I’ve been there myself for so many years as a striker and Teddy Sheringham comes in, Dwight Yorke comes in, Ruud van Nistelrooy comes in, Wayne Rooney comes in.
“We’ve always got to look at improving, and if they don’t improve, we might have to look somewhere else to get better, because we have to be better. We’re too far away from where we need to be and want to be.”
Solskjaer believes Rashford, Martial and Greenwood have only scraped the surface of their potential and insisted they must keep developing. “They know that I trust them, they know I want the best for them, but they also know I’ve got to make decisions for the team and the club,” he said.
“They’ve all taken responsibility at different parts of the season and I’m delighted with all of them. All three have had a good development this season, but they can be so much better. I’m still waiting to see them blossom because there are parts of their game that they still need to improve on.”
United’s 2-1 win over Norwich City on Saturday, which set up an FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea, extended the club’s unbeaten run to 14 matches. Solskjaer believes it is possible his side could go undefeated for the remainder of the campaign, but warned his players that they face a clutch of sides they have already dropped points to.
“Complacency kicks you somewhere you don’t want to get kicked in football,” he said. “Brighton, we’ve lost the last two when we’ve gone down there. We’ve got Bournemouth, who we’ve lost to [this season].
“We’ve got Aston Villa, who we drew with at home. We’ve got Palace, who we lost to at home. We’ve got West Ham that we’ve lost to. Every game is one we have a point to prove in.”
Sanchez and Chris Smalling’s loans with Inter and Roma respectively are due to be extended until the end of the domestic Italian season on Aug 2. But the likelihood is that the pair will then return to Old Trafford, rather than stay to compete in Inter and Roma’s Europa League campaigns.
With a short turnaround to the start of the 2020-21 campaign, United are eager to avoid the risk of either Sanchez or Smalling succumbing to injuries that could complicate potential transfers. Goalkeeper Dean Henderson’s loan at Sheffield United has been extended until the end of the season.
Meanwhile, Solskjaer said that he expected Angel Gomes to depart, with the teenage midfielder out of contract and no new deal agreed.
Mason Greenwood Marcus Rashford